Grammar detail: extended and rare katakana

extended and rare katakana
368 words
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Rare and unused katakana

Some symbols were originally part of the katakana syllabary but are rarely used today.
The most common is ヰ. Although this character is officially known as 'wi', it was actually used as an alternative to the standard symbol for the 'i' sound, イ, most commonly in for example ウヰスキー (whisky), or in school textbooks which were often written out in katakana - for example, notice how in this image from a 1903 textbook, 'shiteimasu' is written as シテヰマス. This was officially marked obsolete in 1946, and in modern Japanese the 'wi' sound would be written with ウイ or ウィ.
The hiragana equivalent is ゐ, and it can be found in older texts in certain grammatical constructions, such as the progressive (for example: 充ちてゐる = modern 充ちている).
Another rare katakana symbol is ヱ (hiragana ゑ), which is officially known as 'we', but often read 'ye' or simply as 'e' and used as an alternative to the usual エ symbol. This still survives today in the name of the popular beer, Ebisu, which is written ヱビス and historically was actually known as Yebisu. In modern Japanese, the 'we' sound would be written 'ウェ' and the 'ye' sound would be written イェ.

Extended katakana

The term 'extended katakana' is used to refer to the use of combinations of standard katakana symbols to create more accurate representations of the sounds of other languages in Japanese. There is an increasing trend to try to represent the sound of a foreign word more authentically, which requires going beyond the basic sounds common in modern Japanese. The following table summarizes the combinations typically encountered.
 イィ (yi) イェ (ye) 
ウァ (wa)ウィ (wi)ウゥ (wu)ウェ (we)ウォ (wo)
ヴァ (va)ヴィ (vi)ヴ (vu)ヴェ (ve)ヴォ (vo)
   ヴィェ (vye) 
   キェ (kye) 
   ギェ (gye) 
クァ (kwa)クィ(kwi)  クェ (kwe)クォ (kwo)
グァ (gwa)グィ (gwi) グェ (gwe)グォ (gwo)
   シェ (she) 
   ジェ (je) 
 スィ (si)   
 ズィ (zi)   
   チェ (che) 
ツァ (tsa)ツィ (tsi) ツェ (tse)ツォ (tso)
 ティ (ti)テゥ (tu)   
 ディ (di)デゥ (du)  
   ニェ (nye) 
   ヒェ (hye) 
   ビェ (bye) 
   ピェ (pye) 
ファ (fa)フィ (fi) フェ (fe)フォ (fo)
   フィェ (fye) 
  ホゥ (hu)   
   ミェ (mye)
   リェ (rye)
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Kanji used in this grammar

ジュウ   あてる to allot   
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